There seems to be a special day or week for everything these days. It’s easy to let them pass us by and dismiss them as something only to be recognised if we’re directly affected by the subject matter. And then Mental Health Awareness Week came along. Don’t stop reading. Even if you have not faced mental health challenges personally, it’s highly likely that someone close to you has.
May 14th kicked off a week dedicated to raising mental health awareness and prompting action.
Jaan Madan, Head of the Client Experience Team at Mental Health First Aid England spoke to us about the UK’s largest ever stress survey, which was conducted for Mental Health Awareness Week by the Mental Health Foundation, and the importance of its conclusions.
Q. What was the impetus for conducting this research?
A. This year, Mental Health Awareness Week asked the question ‘Stress: are we coping?’ Stress is something that everyone deals with in the workplace and although it can motivate us, too much stress, too often can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health.
The Mental Health Foundation commissioned YouGov to conduct the UK’s biggest ever stress survey to help answer the week’s questions and gain valuable insights into how people at different stages of life are coping with stress.
Q. Why are millennials under so much pressure at work compared to previous generations?
A. This research highlights the issue of stress for millennials and has helped to open the conversation as to why this might be the case. Further research is needed to reliably determine the different factors involved but it’s likely that working conditions play a part here. Poor working conditions can undermine good mental health, and millennials may be more likely to have insecure contracts, low rates of pay and high entry-level workloads. The pressures they face in today’s employment market are very different to past generations and this could well be factor in these generational differences.
Q. Do you feel UK workplaces are doing enough to tackle mental health issues within their staff?
A. MHF’s stress survey revealed that only 14% of working age people feel comfortable speaking to a manager about stress. So, while many workplaces are making positive strides, this suggests there is still a long way to go to break the stigma and normalise how we think and act when it comes to mental health. This is something Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and its dedicated network of instructors (now including Neil Laybourn!) are helping thousands of employers to do every year through Mental Health First Aid training courses.
For many organisations, there can be a reluctance to include wellbeing as part of a business strategy and this can be a barrier. Despite the evidence highlighting the financial impact associated with poor employee wellbeing, a misconception still exists that investment in wellbeing will negatively impact the bottom line. As we know, however, the story is actually one of return on investment.
Q. How could we be doing more?
A. Awareness raising, training and sustainability are the three pillars of a good workplace wellbeing strategy – something Mental Health First Aid England spells out for employers of all sizes in our Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit.
Raising awareness of mental health is a quick win and there are loads of resources out there to support organisations to do exactly that. This year, for example, Mental Health First Aid England launched the ‘Address Your Stress’ Toolkit, a free set of resources designed to help everyone tackle unhealthy levels of stress. The tools reflect some of the key themes of Mental Health First Aid training; understanding stress triggers, self-care, and encouraging non-judgemental conversation.
Q. What does the future hold for the next generation entering work?
A. We hope the growing momentum around mental health in the workplace will see young people entering a more positive, less discriminatory atmosphere, but action is needed now. By establishing a network of Mental Health First Aiders across the UK workforce, young people will be better equipped to enter employment with confidence and the necessary support for them to thrive without mental ill health holding them back.